National Politics

Who is Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg?


He has the name that’s hardest to pronounce, but the face that’s become easier and easier to remember.

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is hoping to become the nation’s youngest president.

Since he announced his run in mid-April, his campaign has skyrocketed. He raised $7 million in April alone, sans donations from corporate political committees or executives of the fossil fuel industry, his website says. The mayor of a city most people have never been to by choice (or outside of Notre Dame’s campus) has become a front-runner in a crowded race full of political mainstays and obscure candidates alike.

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Flanked by his now Twitter-famous husband, Chasten Glezman Buttigieg, the young, openly gay candidate taps into the millennial energy he offers and boasts his goals to move the country forward (with a sly dig at President Donald Trump on his website, where he writes that “there is no honest politics that revolves around the word ‘again’ ”). His face has graced the covers of Time Magazine, New York Magazine and the Washington Post Magazine, all of which essentially ask: Can the “Wonder Boy” with the rolled-up sleeves be America’s first millennial president?

Mayor Pete, as many call him, is the youngest candidate in the race, facing two front-runners (Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders) who are more than twice his age. He often talks about belonging to the generation that experienced frequent school shootings, provided soldiers like himself in the conflicts after 9/11 and will continue to experience the effects of climate change. He also points out why the country needs a leader like himself, who helped turn around a Rust Belt town, his native South Bend.

He compares the campaign to his mayoral one, where he was expected to fulfill a half-century-long promise of a return of manufacturing jobs. Operating in South Bend from 1902 to 1963, the Studebaker car factory employed nearly 25,000 workers at its peak. When it died as factory jobs and steel mills became outsourced, the city never got back on its feet.

As mayor, he turned the old factory building into a hub for tech startups and the like, and promised to rebuild crumbling neighborhoods that had been neglected for decades as factory workers and their families left town.

Buttigieg made a name for himself across Indiana for fulfilling the promise, which translated into more outward thinking.

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This run isn’t his first attempt to break out of South Bend. In 2017, he turned heads in his run for chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Buttigieg says he decided to run for president when he pictured a world in which he became president and then considered whether it gave him a feeling of “fulfillment or desolation.” Fulfillment was the answer, he told The New Yorker. He told The Washington Post that his liberal pointedness is what America needs, and that a return to the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama styles of centrism, he says, will invite disaster just as surely in 2020.

“Change is something we need to face with clear eyes. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting,” he said.

About Pete Buttigieg

Current or most recent position: Buttigieg was first elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2011 and re-elected in 2015.

Occupation: From 2004 to 2005, Buttigieg worked as conference director for former Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s strategic consulting firm, The Cohen Group. He also spent several months working on U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. After graduating from graduate school, he became a consultant at McKinsey & Company. In 2007, while volunteering for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Buttigieg was influenced to join the military. Buttigieg served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer and deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014. While deployed, Buttigieg was an armed driver for more than 100 trips into Kabul.

Education: Buttigieg is a graduate of Harvard University and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

Age: 37

Residence: South Bend, Indiana

Family: Buttigieg is married to junior high school teacher Chasten Glezman Buttigieg. They live with their dogs, Truman and Buddy. “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” he told TIME.

Campaign website:

Small donors: $4,536,552, or 64%.

Big donors: As of June 21, top donors included Chicago-based Wicklow Capital ($16,800), Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg ($14,425), risk management firm Willis Towers Watson ($13,700), University of Notre Dame ($13,300) and ($10,100).

Fun fact: Buttigieg has become well known for his proficiency with languages. This became part of his larger brand after he answered questions in Norwegian at a campaign event in Columbia, South Carolina, on March 23.

On the issues: After criticism surrounding the candidate’s lack of positions on various topics, Buttigieg’s website now has 27 different positions under three categories: Freedom (which touches on his cornerstone ideas of expanded access to Medicare and debt-free college), Security (Green New Deal and $15 minimum wage, for example) and Democracy (ideas include statewide redistricting and a nationwide vote to get rid of the Electoral College).

Sources of biographical information: The Buttigieg campaign, Federal Election Commission, TIME Magazine

Follow more of our reporting on 2020 Presidential Election: Democratic Candidate Profiles

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